UK election attention was far stronger on the left than the right

The data suggests mainstream and alt-media coverage and the amount of sharing of that coverage on Facebook may have played a role in the outcome.

We’re finding some fascinating connections between media attention and realworld events. That doesn’t mean one causes the other, necessarily, but sometimes it might.

Last week’s UK election outcome was yet another example.

Source: Kaleida

Early campaign reports from Conservative-led voices that Theresa May would win a landslide victory were not apparent in our data. Actually, the race looked very close in terms of media attention.

After an initial focus on May when she announced the snap election in mid-April the amount of coverage and the volume of social activity in response to that coverage appeared to even out. Some days Corbyn took the lead. Some days May was winning.

The interesting trend we found in our data was the scale of attention across the political spectrum. Attention tipped to the left far more than the right.

Source: Kaleida Data, 2017

In some research we did with The Guardian we scanned a selection of alt-media sources and compared how well they performed against mainstream publishers. Articles posted by activist blogs like Another Angry Voice often outperformed UK election coverage by the BBC, The Guardian, The Telegraph and even the big US publishers like NYT, CNN and Fox News.

They must have had an impact. But there’s another interesting story in the data.

The Independent and The Guardian influenced significantly more attention than The Telegraph, the Daily Mail and The Times. They even beat out the BBC, Buzzfeed and HuffPost. It was the left-leaning mainstream national news orgs that produced the most articles. And it was those articles that received the most shares on Facebook compared to coverage by right-leaning publishers.

Similarly, the left-leaning alt-media sources dominated the right. Westmonster, Breitbart, Guido Fawkes and Your News Wire were not as successful in their UK election coverage compared to their left-leaning counterparts, by these measures.

Now, we didn’t make a prediction prior to the UK election. We learned from our French election predictions that we needed more data, particularly when a race is close. In that case we overestimated the power of English-language media attention on the outcome of the French vote.

In the case of the UK election we not only needed more alt-media sources to measure attention, we knew nuance in how we measure attention was required, too. There are things that need to be taken into account such as the impact of a publisher’s coverage in proportion to the size of their readership and the number of likes they have on Facebook.

If you’re interested in this data we will make it all public soon, or you can get in touch. We’re happy to share it.